Intergenerational Religious Participation in Adolescence and Provision of Assistance to Older Mothers

Merril Silverstein, Dongmei Zuo, Jinpu Wang, Vern L. Bengtson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: This investigation examined the association between intergenerational religious activities in adolescence and provision of assistance to older mothers up to 45 years later. Background: Guided by perspectives of the life course and intergenerational solidarity, this research tested whether children's early religious participation with mothers predicted the amount of assistance children later provided, whether mothers' disability and widowhood served as moderators of this relationship, and whether any such moderation was mediated by emotional closeness, geographic proximity, and eldercare norms. Method: Data were derived from 220 adolescents who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Generations in 1971 and up to four follow-up surveys between 1997 and 2016, yielding 608 person-year observations. Multilevel regression predicted the amount of assistance provided to older mothers as a function of early religious participation with mothers, physical and social vulnerability of mothers, and dimensions of intergenerational solidarity with mothers in later life. Results: The results revealed elevated levels of assistance provided by children who earlier engaged in intermittent and regular religious activities with mothers. The relationship between regular religious activities and assistance was stronger for assistance to widowed mothers than to married mothers, and this moderation was partially mediated by emotional closeness and geographic proximity. Conclusion: This research confirmed that early family conditions structure informal resources available to older parents. Religious socialization during an impressionable period of life produced emergent benefits at a point in the family lifecycle when intergenerational solidarity becomes important for well-being in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1206-1220
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • caregiving
  • intergenerational
  • longitudinal research
  • older adults
  • parent–child relationships
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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